Best Road Bike Helmets

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
425 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best road bike helmets

Last Updated July 2019

A helmet is one of the only safety-specific pieces of gear you need to ride a road bike. As a result, it is absolutely crucial that your helmet fit snugly, be comfortable to wear, and provide sufficient protection.

The three most common types of road bike helmets are fully vented, aerodynamic, and semi-aero. These different types have varying degrees of ventilation and aerodynamics that affect the feel and performance of the helmet. There’s no limit to the number of shapes, styles, and colors of road bike helmets, so it’s easy to find one that fits your taste or complements your bike.

A road bike helmet can be expensive, and it’s important to understand the different types available to find the one that meets your needs. That’s where we come in. To learn more about road bike helmets and their common features, continue reading our shopping guide. If you’re ready to buy, check out our favorite road bike helmet recommendations.

Road bike helmets differ from regular bike helmets and mountain bike helmets in that they’re extremely lightweight and more aerodynamic.

Key considerations

Choosing a road bike helmet might seem like a fairly simple process: choose a style, find one that fits, and buy. But there is more to it than meets the eye, and not all road bike helmets function in the same way.

Types of road bike helmets

The three common varieties differ in airflow and aerodynamics. One isn’t necessarily safer than the others, but each is better suited to a style of biking.

Fully vented: These helmets have more air vents to keep your head cool. If you regularly bike in hot weather or just hate your head overheating while you ride, a fully vented helmet might be the right choice for you.

Aerodynamic: These helmets, also known as “aero” helmets, have little to no ventilation to provide maximum aerodynamics and speed. These are a popular choice for professional cyclists, though you’ll need to reach speeds of 25 miles per hour or more to experience a significant reduction in drag. If you opt for an aerodynamic helmet, you should also have a fully vented or semi-aero helmet for warmer conditions and casual riding.

Semi aero: These helmets are a more recent invention – a mix of aerodynamic and fully vented helmets. They offer enough ventilation to be used on hot days while reducing drag far better than a traditional fully vented helmet. If you only want to buy one helmet, this is a good option. These are also considerably less expensive than aerodynamic helmets on average.

Certifications and safety

While almost all helmets use expanded polystyrene foam that is designed to crush and absorb impact in the event of a crash, road bike helmets vary in their safety features. A quick way to determine the level of protection is to look at a helmet’s safety certifications. Most helmets indicate that they have passed either CPSC or CEN testing. For the safest possible helmet, look for the Snell certification as well.

CPSC certification: This indicates that a helmet has passed the safety tests of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is standard for helmets made in the United States. These tests include a G-force drop test and a strap strength test.

Snell rating: These are safety standards issued by the nonprofit Snell Memorial Foundation and are fairly similar to the CPSC certification. The primary difference between the two is that the Snell organization continues to test helmets after their initial creation to ensure that manufacturers are maintaining the same level of safety.

CEN certification: This is a European safety standard comparable to CPSC certification. It is somewhat less strict and often results in helmets that contain less polystyrene foam.

MIPS technology: The multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) is designed to protect your head from rotational forces. MIPS comes in the form of a layer with reduced friction that allows your helmet to rotate slightly, thus reducing the rotation transferred to your head and brain. A MIPS layer results in a slightly heavier helmet and often a costlier one, too.

Fit

A properly fitted road bike helmet should fit snugly to your head without squeezing it. The front edge of the helmet should rest about an inch above your eyebrows. The strap should sit comfortably where your neck meets your jaw. Some road bike helmets have a tensioning band inside the helmet to secure it firmly to your head.

To measure yourself for a road bike helmet, wrap a flexible measuring tape around your head just above your eyebrows.

EXPERT TIP

Road bike helmets don’t usually have visors, which keeps the weight of the helmet low. If you opt for one with a visor, know that it will weigh a bit more.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

The lack of ventilation in aerodynamic helmets can be an advantage in colder seasons when a fully ventilated helmet would be too cold.


Staff  | BestReviews

Road bike helmet features

Road bike helmets vary greatly in color and style and come with a number of features that improve fit, adjustability, and overall comfort.

Adjustments

The foam in a helmet isn’t designed to flex or move to accommodate your head, but there are two primary ways you can change the fit of a helmet: the adjustment system and the retention system.

Adjustment system: This refers to the way the helmet’s inner band can be tightened or loosened to fit your head. Many helmets don’t have a way to do this, but some have a dial at the back of the band that can be turned. This isn’t only a matter of finding a good fit; sometimes you  might want to wear a cycling cap for extra warmth and need to loosen the helmet slightly.

Retention system: This is the adjustment of the chin strap to be looser or tighter. It should be easy to adjust the strap to fit properly beneath your jaw. The V-shaped portions of the strap near your ears should rest just below your earlobes without rubbing against your ears.

Hair port strap

If you have long hair, consider buying a helmet with a hair port strap in the back. This allows you to comfortably tuck a ponytail through the gap in the strap.

Style

There are too many different styles, colors, and patterns of road bike helmets to break them down into categories. Safety is the most important consideration when choosing a helmet, but you might also want to choose one that fits your taste and complements the colors of your bike and cycling gear. A brightly colored helmet can help to increase your visibility, too.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some road bike helmets can be easily adjusted to accommodate a cycling cap.

Road bike helmet prices

Inexpensive: Road bike helmets that cost $20 to $50 typically use heavier materials and are less likely to fit comfortably or be easily adjustable.

Mid-range: Most road bike helmets fall in the $50 to $150 range. Many of these are fully vented or semi-aero helmets and fairly lightweight, though they might lack a MIPS liner.

Expensive: You’ll spend $150 to $250 for a high-end road bike helmet that has a MIPS liner and an adjustment system for more comfort. These helmets are extremely lightweight and often aerodynamic in design.

Tips

  • Wear your helmet correctly. A road bike helmet should rest just above your eyebrows, covering your forehead for maximum protection.

  • Replace a damaged helmet. Any helmet that takes a bump in a crash should be replaced. Even if there is no noticeable damage, the helmet could fail to protect you in a future crash.

  • Replace your helmet every five years. This is a general guideline. Pollution and general wear and tear can render the polystyrene foam ineffective.

  • Check that your glasses fit comfortably with your helmet. Use vents to hold your glasses when you don’t need them.

Other products we considered

While we stand by our top recommendations as some of the best road bike helmets available, there are a few standout models worth mentioning that didn’t make the list. One classic choice is the Giro Foray MIPS  Helmet, which offers great safety features for a moderate price. We love the streamlined design and how much ventilation the helmet offers. The Roc Loc 5 adjustment system is also incredibly easy to use. For a low-priced helmet with an unusual design, there’s the BASE CAMP Zoom/Zoom Aero Road Bike Helmet, which has a built-in optical shield that easily attaches or detaches with magnets. This is one of the cheapest aerodynamic helmets available, and many customers who experienced crashes praised it for its protection.

As long as you don’t crash, a road bike helmet should last up to five years.

FAQ

Q. How do I clean my road bike helmet?
A.
Most helmets are submerged in water as a part of their testing, so the polystyrene foam should be fully waterproof. You can clean the outside and inside of your helmet with soap and water.

Q. Can road bike helmets be used for other types of biking?
A.
While they can be used for commuting, mountain biking, and other types of biking, your safest option is to purchase a helmet for each type of riding because they vary in their design and safety features.

Q. Where should I store my road bike helmet?
A.
It’s important to keep your helmet away from heat to avoid damaging the foam. Attics and cars are likely to become fairly hot in the summer. The best place to keep a road bike helmet is somewhere relatively cool, like a closet. ​​​​​​​

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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